Monday, October 20, 2003

Miami Circle ReBuried - More Archaeology Bungling - 227 B LexiLine Journal

The string of stories showing archaeology bungling has no end.
Here is a story relating to the Miami Circle, which I have
deciphered - see the decipherment in our files - and which has now
been reburied because the state archaeologists have not been able to
get their act together. It is just one terrible tale after the next
about this inept profession.

On Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003 , the following article, written by
Martin Merzer was posted to the Miami Herald at

"Miami Circle archaeological find will be reburied
The dig, discovered in 1998 amid much controversy, will be covered
up again - possibly for years - while officials figure out how to
open it to the public.

DISCOVERY: Members of the Miami Circle Planning Committee gather at
the site just east of Brickell Avenue in Miami. CARL JUSTE/HERALD
FILE, 2001

Five years after the Miami Circle was unearthed and saved from the
bulldozers, it will be reburied Friday -- a stark concession that
officials have been unable to open the archaeological treasure to
the public, which paid $26.7 million to preserve it.

Prominent archaeologist Robert Carr said the ancient 38-foot-wide
stone carving is eroding and must be protected from the elements as
several agencies spar over how to prepare the downtown site for
public access.

Carr and others said state and local officials who mustered the
will -- and found the money -- to save the site at the mouth of the
Miami River have proved unable to agree on a plan to exhibit it.

''This is being done with the idea of not easily uncovering it for
people to see,'' said Carr, who helped find the artifact in November
1998. ``It's an acknowledgement that it could be a year or three
years, we just don't know how long, before the county and the state
are ready to open it to the public.''

Though the Circle has been shrouded from time to time by tarpaulin
or other material, the latest action is viewed as a more permanent
reburial and a disappointing phase of a discovery that once sparked
the imaginations of schoolchildren and others.

Believed to have been created more than 2,000 years ago by the now
extinct Tequesta Indians, the Circle is considered a cultural
treasure by many scientists and preservationists.

But only small groups of experts or others, after making special
arrangements, have been able to visit the archaeological site in the
heart of Miami's business district.

And now, the Circle is being reburied.

On Friday morning, Carr and other archaeologists -- responding to a
request by state officials -- will insert bags of limestone gravel
into the 26 carved basins that form the Circle.

Then they will cover the carving with a uniform level of gravel, an
impermeable tarpaulin and a layer of white sand.


Carr called it ``the layer-cake effect.''

Michael Spring, director of Miami-Dade County's Department of
Cultural Affairs and a leading advocate of opening the site,
expressed frustration over the turn of events and blamed it largely
on state officials.

The state contributed $15 million to help purchase the Circle and
its 2.2-acre site on the southern bank of the Miami River east of
Brickell Avenue.

In return, the state gained ownership of the property.

The other $11.7 million came from the county.

So, what went wrong?

''Call the state and ask them,'' Spring said with a sigh. ``They
have all kinds of rules, regulations and restrictions.''

Brenda Swann, a state archaeologist, said it is not unusual for such
projects to move slowly and the state's 18-member Miami Circle task
force is determined to address the project's long-term interests.

''We will make sure we do it right,'' she said.

Swann said the site is being considered for incorporation into
Biscayne National Park, so federal officials and regulations are
also involved, further complicating the situation.

In May 2002, Spring introduced a plan that would shelter the Circle
under a 60-foot-tall thatched structure and erect explanatory signs.
It would cost $400,000, he said at the time, and could be completed
within four months.

''Our objectives always have been to protect the Circle, remain
respectful of the site and make it available to the public for
limited tours,'' Spring said Wednesday.

But the proposed project, to be paid for with state money, was
rejected by state officials, Spring said, after their architects
questioned the cost.

Swann said state experts also were concerned about the plan's
design. ''We don't want to take anything away from the aesthetic
nature of the site,'' she said, ``which is what a thatched roof
would have done.''


For his part, Spring questioned the state's aesthetic values. As a
temporary measure, he said, a state architect suggested that the
Circle be protected by a retractable pool cover, a plan that many
considered disrespectful to the site.

''That did not meet with overwhelming positive support from the
Miami Circle Planning Group,'' Spring said dryly. ``Given the demise
of the plan we had, there is no approved plan that the state can go
forward with.''

That leaves everything on hold.

"We had the juice, the energy, to preserve it, which we're all
thankful for,'' Carr said, "but it turns out to be much harder to
manage it and open it to the public.'' "

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